Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 1.4.8
Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ - Pursuing One’s Own Good and the Well-being of Others, part one
By the power of this sutta the Yakkhas do not show fearful visions.
A person who is engaged in and practising metta day and night
Sleeps peacefully, and while sleeping,
Does not encounter bad dreams.
Endowed with such qualities,
Let us recite this paritta.
This Karaṇīyametta Suttaṃ, also called Mettasuttaṃ, is one of the best known suttas and is used as a protective chanting (paritta) in many countries.10 These charming and inspiring verses were originally planned to be divided into two parts to closely follow the selections in this course. The first three verses, describing the exemplary qualities as elucidated by the Buddha to his monks, were going to come under the heading of this subchapter so they could provide inspiration. The final verses were then going to fit into chapter four, the selections of suttas that describe the practise of Metta and will be titled Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ, part two – How Mettā Should Be Practiced. However, after further thought it has now been decided to keep this renowned and comprehensive sutta in its complete form and not divide it, but rather post it twice with two different Introductions expounding the respective verses.
The opening verse is a post canonical addition to the original sutta. When the Pāli composers of Sri Lanka selected suitable suttas for collections that were to be used as paritta chanting,11 they created opening verses to each of these suttas relating the circumstances and often added the intended purpose for recitation.
The Karaṇīyamettasutta was taught by the Buddha at the time of the rains retreats to a group of five hundred Bhikkhus who had received their instructions for meditation.12
… pañcamattāni bhikkhusatāni bhagavato santike kammaṭṭhānaṃ uggahetvā …
After receiving instructions, they withdrew to a suitable secluded place at the base of the Himalayan Mountains whose surface glittered like blue quartz crystal. There were cool, green and dense forest groves with inviting jewel-like sandy grounds with a clean spring of refreshing, sweet cool water that spread over the grounds.13
… gantvā paccante himavantena saddhiṃ ekābaddhaṃ
sucisātasītalajalāsayaparivāritaṃ pabbatamaddasaṃsu …
The scene was ideally located in the vicinity of a town where the inhabitants where joyful to serve the needs of the monks and begged them to stay past the rains. Full of zeal the Bhikkhus devoted themselves to their meditation.
The forests gods felt disturbed and left their dwelling resorts in the trees and were wandering back and forth, wondering how long these Bhikkhus were to remain there.17 When they realised that the Bhikkhus were going to stay for the full rainy season they decided to harass them in various ways by producing terrible sounds and visions, trying to frighten the Bhikkhus with various forms and sounds using the form of a Yakkha.18 A Yakkha is a being that belongs to the first deva world of the cātumahārājikā deva, the abode of the four great kings who function as guardians of the four directions. They are beings of enormous power and great strength who can change their appearance at will. Many amongst the Yakkhas are followers of the Buddha, but others are fond of unwholesome activities and try to harass those who try to live a holy life. The great king of the Yakkhas, Vessavaṇa, was a devout follower of the Buddha and suggested the Āṭānāṭiyasutta19 for the protection of monks, nuns, lay male and female disciples
When the Bhikkhus related their experiences to each other during their regular gathering they decided to return to the Buddha to ask him whether they could move to another resting place in spite of the strict rule for a Bhikkhu to remain at a chosen place during the entire rainy season and not to wander about.
Atha kho bhagavā … bhikkhū āmantesi – ‘‘na, bhikkhave, vassaṃ upagantvā purimaṃ vā temāsaṃ pacchimaṃ vā temāsaṃ avasitvā cārikā pakkamitabbā. Yo pakkameyya, āpatti dukkaṭassā’’ti.
“Do not, Bhikkhus, once having entered your rain retreat, set out during either the first three months or the last three months.20 He who does so is committing an offence of wrong-doing!”
The rule was made after people had complained that the Bhikkhus, the sons of the Sakyans, by wandering about in the period of cold, heat and rain, may trample down crops and grasses, injuring the lives of plants21 and destroying many small living beings.22
After the Bhikkhus had arrived, the Buddha questioned them about the reason for their return: “There should be no wandering about during the rains, this training rule has been established by me, so why are you wandering?”23 So they explained the matter to him. He then advised them to return to the same place and practice Metta towards all beings by teaching them this sutta.
… sace pana devatāhi abhayaṃ icchatha, imaṃ parittaṃ uggaṇhatha. Etañhi vo parittañca kammaṭṭhānañca bhavissatī”ti idaṃ suttamabhāsi. …
If you wish to be free from fear of these Devas, then acquire these protective verses, they will be a safeguard and a subject of meditation for you!
Although the Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ truly highlights in a unique way the awesome state of a pure mind of someone practising loving kindness, its ultimate form will be presented in Chapter Four. The introductory verses depict the noble demeanour of someone who desires his own welfare and properly wishes to attain the Ultimate Peace of Nibbāna. Their perfections maintain a deep source of inspiration for the recollection of the Sangha’s qualities and encourage them to make an example for oneself, such as:
· suvaco: When told – “This should not be done!” and one defiantly replies: “Has anything been seen by you? What has been heard by you? Who are you to tell me, are you a preceptor, a teacher, a friend, a companion?”24 Or when one simply remains silent. Or one accepts but does not follow the advice up with action then one is far away from attaining any distinction.25 But if on the other hand one replies, once advised:
Yo pana ovadiyamāno ‘‘sādhu, bhante suṭṭhu vuttaṃ, attano vajjaṃ nāma duddasaṃ hoti, punapi maṃ evarūpaṃ disvā vadeyyātha anukampaṃ upādāya, cirassaṃ me tumhākaṃ santikā ovādo laddho’’ti vadati.
“Well, Bhante, very well said. It is difficult to see what is to be blamed in oneself. May you, if you see me again perform such like actions, out of compassion approach and tell me likewise, may I long benefit from your advice in my presence!”
Then after accepting the advice, if one follows it up accordingly, that person is getting closer to attaining distinction. That is why one should develop the quality of suvaco, being easily spoken to, accepting the advice of others and acting accordingly.26
• subharo: Being easily supported, thus he is easily sustained, that is the meaning:27 …
Yo pana yaṃ kiñci lūkhaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā appaṃ vā bahuṃ vā labhitvā attamano vippasannamukho hutvā yāpeti, esa subharo …
Whatever he receives, be it coarse or excellent, little or plentiful, he accepts whatever with cheerful and pleased face, this is easy to be supported …
• appakicco: He is occupied with little, thus he is of few involvements. He does not get involved in activities by being fond of becoming busy, of conversation, of company and such.28
• santindriyo: With senses calmed, he has senses that are tranquil, senses unspoiled by desire for enjoyable objects and the like, that is the meaning.29
Further verses will be highlighted under Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ, part two – How Mettā Should Be Practiced in Chapter Four.
1. yassānubhāvato: yassa + anubhāvato – by whose + power.
2. dassenti: show.
3. bhīsa: dreadful, fearful.
4. cevānuyuñjanto: ca + eva + anuyuñjanto – and + also + practicing.
5. supati: sleep, sutto: (pp.): slept.
6. evamādi: evam + ādi: like this + etc.
7. guṇūpetaṃ: guṇa + ūpetaṃ: quality + endowed with.
8. paritta: protection.
9. bhaṇāmahe: bhaṇe + ahe (indecl.) – let us recite.
10. It is recited on day three of the meditation course by S.N. Goenka.
11. For example the Catubhānavārapāli.
12. ‘… pañcamattāni bhikkhusatāni bhagavato santike kammaṭṭhānaṃ uggahetvā …’
13. This and all following quotes are taken from the commentary: Mettasuttavaṇṇanā.
14. nīlakācamaṇisannibhasilātalaṃ: nīla + kāca + maṇi + sannibha + silā + talaṃ – dark blue + glasslike + gem + resembling + stone, rock + surface, ground.
15. sītalaghanacchāyanīlavanasaṇḍamaṇḍitaṃ: sītala + ghanacchāya + nīla + vanasaṇḍa + maṇḍitaṃ – cool + deep in shade + dark green + forest + adorned.
16. uttājālarajatapaṭṭasadisavālukākiṇṇabhūmibhāgaṃ: uttā + jāla + rajata + paṭṭa + sadisa + vāluka + ākiṇṇa + bhūmi + bhāgaṃ – higher + water + silver + similar to + sand + spread, scattered + earth, ground + part.
17. Sīlavantānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ tejena vihatatejā rukkhadevatā attano attano vimānā oruyha… The tree-gods were disturbed by the moral strength of the Bhikkhus and left their own mansions…
18. … yakkharūpāni nimminitvā purato purato tiṭṭhanti, bheravasaddañca karonti … taking the form of terrifying Yakkhas and standing in front of them they made a terrible noise.
19. See Dīgha Nikāya, a shorter version of this, also a paritta-chanting is recited on day one during a regular 10-day course by S.N. Goenka.
20. The two periods for settling down for the rain retreats were the three months starting with the full moon day of Āsāḷhā, (June/July) or the three months after the next full moon day.- Dvemā, bhikkhave, vassūpanāyikā – purimikā, pacchimikā. Aparajjugatāya āsāḷhiyā purimikā upagantabbā, māsagatāya āsāḷhiyā pacchimikā upagantabbā – imā kho, bhikkhave, dve vassūpanāyikāti.
21. ekindriyaṃ jīvaṃ: Life that has only one sense faculty, which is the outward form (kāya).
22. Manussā ujjhāyanti khiyyanti vipācenti – ‘‘kathañhi nāma samaṇā sakyaputtiyā hemantampi gimhampi vassampi cārikaṃ carissanti, haritāni tiṇāni sammaddantā, ekindriyaṃ jīvaṃ viheṭhentā, bahū khuddake pāṇe saṅghātaṃ āpādentā.
23. “na, bhikkhave, antovassaṃ cārikā caritabbāti mayā sikkhāpadaṃ paññattaṃ, kissatumhe cārikaṃ carathā”
24. ‘‘idaṃ na kattabba’’nti vutto ‘‘kiṃ te diṭṭhaṃ, kiṃ te sutaṃ, ko me sutvā vadasi, kiṃ upajjhāyo ācariyo sandiṭṭho sambhatto vā’’ti vadeti.
25. tuṇhībhāvena vā taṃ viheseti, sampaṭicchitvā vā na tathā karoti, so visesādhigamassa dūre hoti.
26. … yathānusiṭṭhañca paṭipajjati, so visesādhigamassa avidūre hoti. Tasmā evaṃ parassa vacanaṃ sampaṭicchitvā karonto suvaco ca assa.
27. Sukhena bharīyatīti subharo, suposoti vuttaṃ hoti.
28. Appaṃ kiccamassāti appakicco, na kammārāmatābhassārāmatāsaṅgaṇikārāmatādianekakiccabyāvaṭo.
29. Santāni indriyāni assāti santindriyo, iṭṭhārammaṇādīsu rāgādivasena anuddhatindriyoti vuttaṃ hoti.